from the trailer for the film
After the Thin Man (1936)
|Born||Giuseppe Maria Spurrin-Calleja
August 4, 1897
Saqqajja Square, Rabat, Malta
|Died||October 31, 1975
|Spouse||Eleonore Vassallo (1929–1968) (her death)|
Joseph Calleia (August 4, 1897 – October 31, 1975) was a Maltese born American singer, composer, screenwriter and actor, both on Broadway and in film. Calleia played opposite some Hollywood greats, including John Wayne, William Holden, Errol Flynn, Rita Hayworth, Mae West, Bette Davis, Orson Welles, Jane Russell, Alan Ladd, William Powell, Mario Lanza, Charlton Heston, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, Tyrone Power, and Anthony Quinn.
Born at Saqqajja Square, Rabat, Malta, to Pasquale and Elena Calleja, he was educated at St Julian's and St Aloysius colleges in Malta. He organized a harmonica band of boys which earned him enough money to leave Malta in 1914, at age 17, and began his career touring Europe as a teenage singer with a harmonica band, appearing in the cafés and music halls of many war-torn and weary capital cities. He later went to New York as a singer and then turned to drama.
Although Calleia made over 50 films, he always claimed to enjoy stage performance to film acting. He was considered a "bright light" on Broadway between 1926 and 1945, and appeared in several hit plays, including:
By 1931, Calleia had landed an MGM contract in Hollywood, where he successfully pursued a career in the film industry, appearing in a total of 57 movies between then and 1955, frequently playing cops or villains in gangster and western films.
He made his screen debut in 1935 with appearances in two B-films: His Woman (1931) and The Girl in the Cab (1933). He very quickly made his mark, playing the role of a criminal in Public Hero No. 1, followed by Riff Raff (1935) in which he played a womanizer, co-starring with Jean Harlow, Spencer Tracy and Mickey Rooney. In 1936, Calleia wrote the screenplay for the western take on Robin Hood with The Robin Hood of El Dorado. In 1943, he played El Sordo in For Whom The Bell Tolls.
Calleia was posthumously honoured by the Malta postal authority with a set of two commemorative stamps issued in his memory in 1997. In October 2005, a monument consisting of a bust of Calleia was erected in front of the house where he was born. The bust was made gratis by sculptor Anton Agius on the initiative of then 15-year-old, Eman Bonnici.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Joseph Calleia|
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